Archive for October 3, 2017

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

iPhone 8, Qi Wireless Charging, and the Challenge of Open

Ben Bajarin:

In the few weeks, I’ve been using an iPhone 8 and the Mophie wireless charging pad I have woken up the next day to an iPhone that did not charge and has less than 10% battery at least several times a week. This last week alone it happened three times. For a myriad of reasons, from charging coils, to pad design, etc., when using this pad the iPhone and Mophie pad have to be aligned just right, or it won’t charge. You can’t just drop it down anywhere on the pad but instead need to align it just right. Where this impacts me, is throughout the night my phone may get a notification buzz and as a result will move off the sweet spot and then stop charging.


While many third parties disliked Apple’s MFI accessory program, the guidelines Apple had in place for third parties to create accessories for their products led to consistent experiences with third-party products and Apple products. At the moment, we don’t have the same situation with Qi Wireless charging. While Apple’s embracing of the Qi standard means they will certainly get involved and help drive the standard and the technology forward, for now, Apple runs the risk of having third-party solutions not meet their standards of an accessory that will work with iPhones.

Previously: iPhone 8 Charging Speed.

Update (2017-10-04): Phil Wu:

The Panasonic Qi charging pad has coils that move to where your phone is (Panasonic QE-TM101-K).

Evolving the Dropbox Brand

Dropbox (tweet, Hacker News):

Today we’re announcing the biggest change to Dropbox’s look in our 10-year history.

As our mission has evolved from keeping files in sync to helping keep teams in sync, we realized our brand needs to change, too. Our new brand system shows that Dropbox isn’t just a place to store your files—it’s a living workspace that brings teams and ideas together. The look is expressive, with vibrant colors, rich imagery, a versatile typeface, and playful illustrations.

Putting aside how it looks, that Web site is incredibly hard to scroll and read. It’s like it broke my browser.

Paul Ford:

Dropbox has deemphasized the thing it does beautifully to emphasize the things everyone does poorly.

I just want to search through a folder and have files I actually personally created in this life show up.

Peter Maurer:

Side note: A service that’s meant to be invisible + shrill rebranding = heck of a juxtaposition. I bet those meetings were interesting.

Casey Newton (tweet):

In an interview with AdWeek, Dropbox says it’s hoping the new color combinations help it stand out more among the crowd, and aims to give a “nod to the creativity of our users.” The look and feel is now closer to Adobe than, say, Microsoft OneDrive. Dropbox says the logo colors “can change based on the situation,” though I am unclear on exactly what situation I would need my file sharing service to be a little more mint green than crimson red.

Armin Vit, we can’t wait until you get back.

Update (2017-10-04): Eli Schiff:


Bob Burrough:

How real humans see the Dropbox redesign.

Buzz Andersen:

I also like the site, but I feel like tech company redesigns are increasingly all manifesto and no follow through.

Riccardo Mori:

I have to be honest: the Dropbox redesign is appalling, but navigating the Web interface appears to be faster & more responsive than before.

The impact of the new design is also extremely mitigated once you log in.

Armin Vit:

Unfortunately, when the name contains box and the icon looks like a box, I, and perhaps others, expect a more box-like, box. Trying to shift its meaning to “a collection of surfaces” is conceptually valiant and may look interesting in animation but it’s still a box at the end of the day and the hard, isometric angles of the new icon make it look stiff and slightly disproportionate.

The wordmark is an improvement simply because Sharp Grotesk is an infinitely superior typeface than whatever the old one was and shifting the color to black is the equivalent of changing clothes from wearing jeans paired with a denim shirt to pairing jeans with a black t-shirt, which is much more flattering and helps define that there are two parts to the whole.


But, just as always, the illustrations feel oddly disconnected from the user interface. I always felt like the Dropbox illustrations were in conflict with the rest of the interface and were just dropped in into an assigned space, which is still the case and feels less than integrated.

See also: How Dropbox Onboards New Users, MacRumors.

Update (2017-10-16): See also: In Depth.

PDFKit Improves Somewhat in High Sierra

Adam C. Engst:

Somewhat annoyingly, Apple has worked around many of these bugs in Preview rather than fixing them in the underlying PDFKit framework. That’s good for users, of course, because it means that Preview should work correctly. But it forces independent developers to implement their own workarounds, disable features, or put up with user complaints while hoping that Apple fixes the bugs.


My take is that those who rely on PDF support in independent apps are probably better off upgrading to High Sierra than remaining on Sierra, since Apple has fixed some bugs. If you have instead stuck with 10.11 El Capitan, you may wish to delay upgrading to High Sierra until you can verify that the apps you rely on for PDF-related features are fully functional in High Sierra.

Previously: macOS 10.13 High Sierra Released, More macOS Preview PDF Trouble.

Update (2017-10-16): Luc P. Beaudoin:

Cognitive Productivity reader, Richard Holmes, notified me that macOS 10.13 (“High Sierra”) worsens the PDF rendering problems Apple introduced in macOS 10.12, Sierra, that I blogged about earlier. The problems are in Apple’s PDFKit used by third party developers. Apple seems to be using a private API to work around these problems in its Preview app and Safari. Fortunately, Richard has discovered some work-arounds, which I describe below.


The PDF rendering problem seems to happen most frequently when multiple PDFs are open, and when some of those PDFs are big.

Apple Design in the Cook Era

Joshua Topolsky (Hacker News):

Stretching perhaps from the introduction of the first iPod in 2001, through the release of the groundbreaking iPhone 4 (and subsequent refinement with the iPhone 5), Apple was regularly lauded as best-in-class when it came to hardware and software design and the synchronicity of those elements.


But things changed.

In 2013 I wrote about the confusing and visually abrasive turn Apple had made with the introduction of iOS 7, the operating system refresh that would set the stage for almost all of Apple’s recent design. The product, the first piece of software overseen by Jony Ive, was confusing, amateur, and relatively unfinished upon launch. While Ive had utterly revamped what the company had been doing thematically with its user interface — eschewing the original iPhone’s tactility of skeuomorphic, real-world textures for a more purely “digital” approach — he also ignored more grounded concepts about user experience, systematic cohesion, and most surprisingly, look and feel. Gone were the mock felt backgrounds and virtual dials of Steve Jobs’ iOS, but suddenly present was a set of gestures and layers purported to be part of a system that never quite clicked. Ive converted understandable buttons into confusing rubrics (the share arrow?), clustered controls into a context-free space (Control Center), and perhaps worst of all, made some really ugly icons that have never fully recovered.


This is not an argument about what Steve Jobs would have done; this is an argument for a central, cohesive vision that accounts for systems, not just nodes on a network. Jony Ive is clearly not providing that vision. Phil Schiller is not providing that vision. And Tim Cook, the all-time don of supply-chain management, cannot and will not provide that vision. So what happens now?

His title is “Apple Is Really Bad at Design,” which I don’t think is true. And I don’t agree with all of his points—for example, the new Control Center seems pretty functional to me. However, I would agree that we are not currently in one of the golden eras of Apple design. Ive and his team are still talented, so what’s changed? From the outside it’s hard to know. One possibility is that it’s only in retrospect that we can really see the contributions of Jobs and perhaps others such as Forstall who have departed. Another is that the scope of what Apple is trying to do has greatly increased. The software and hardware teams seem to be stretched thin, and design probably is, too. Yet the company is clearly still capable of great design. AirPods is a new product that (aside from the manufacturing delays) is as close to perfect as any Apple has ever made.

Michael Love:

Regarding this heavily-discussed rant: virtually every design sin of Cook era has been case of pragmatism > purity.

Steven Sinofsky:

This is some rant and I’ve been on the receiving end of @joshuatopolsky rants 😱—seems a bit much to me.

Chuq Von Rospach:

With absolute certainty that everyone else is wrong and he’s right. Pure Topolsky.

David Owens II:

Maybe, but I’ve run into far more issues in the past two years with my Apple products then I ever had, all because of design choices.

I literally have all four some my USB-C ports used, two with USB adapters, one with a DP adapter (b/c HDMI doesn’t work for me), and power.

My PENCIL is constantly drained because I haven’t bought yet another adapter. I frequently can’t list to music on my iPhone 7.

Going back to the SE, they still haven’t actually solved any of the design issues in iOS 7, just used more space to help.

At some point, these failures all point to bad design choices.

Nick Lockwood:

Look, clearly Apple is great and all their long-term fans who are now complaining are wrong. Everything is fine so just shut up ok lalalala.

The Macalope:

No one complained about the plastic iPhone 3G, the buttonless iPod Shuffle, the cheap iPhone 5c, brushed metal, pinstripes and stoplight colors in OS X, or the “fat” iPod nano and no one ever said that the “groundbreaking” iPhone 4 was ugly. (The Memory Hole is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your memory-shoving needs.) Topolsky misremembers that people only started complaining when iOS 7 was released. iOS 7 certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was a dramatic reset of the design of iOS, sometime most observers of the company agreed needed to happen. It was just another thing Apple did that people complained about. One that also evolved into something nice.

Previously: iPhone X Design and the Notch.

Update (2017-10-04): Riccardo Mori:

The thing is, back then I felt that Apple was making the right choices in several contexts, but that a lot of people (even certain long-time, inflexible Mac users) didn’t understand such choices. The absence of the floppy drive in the first iMac. The iPod as a potentially revolutionary device. The transition from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X. The transition from PowerPC to Intel architecture. I spent long months full of long days as a consultant explaining Apple to bewildered users and clients who, more than once, thought that the company was “losing its mind”. And so on and so forth. If you’ve ever done tech consulting and/or support, you’ve surely been there too.

But now — now I’m criticising Apple more not because I suddenly developed a grudge against the company. On the contrary, I still care a lot about Apple. I’m surrounded by Apple hardware at home, I’m still quite invested in the ecosystem, and even vintage and obsolete machines are put to good use in the household. It’s because I care that I feel, strongly, that Apple should be criticised — mercilessly, provided it’s informed criticism — whenever there’s something truly worth criticising. And in recent times I’ve been more critic of Apple because I simply think there’s more to criticise.